A last-minute appeal by Ishin no To (Japan Innovation Party) for proportional representation votes appears to have prevented larger-than-predicted losses in Sunday's Lower House election.
But party co-leader Toru Hashimoto said the results, which were still being tallied as of late Sunday, amounted to a complete loss for his party and a complete victory for the ruling coalition.
"It is clear that the people chose the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito," Hashimoto said at a news conference after the polls closed. "There was a lack of trust in our party and its representatives, and it was a complete loss because we didn't win a majority."
An NHK exit poll predicted Ishin would end up with between 30 and 48 seats. On Saturday evening, Hashimoto had pleaded with voters to return "between 10 and 20" candidates to the Diet. Beforehand, the party had 42 seats, and some local media had predicted Ishin would be routed, finishing with just a few dozen.
But a last-minute push by Ishin as well as growing voter concern over whether the LDP-Komeito coalition would carry through with some of Ishin's major goals, including the integration of the Osaka municipal and prefectural governments and bureaucratic reform, may have gained the party votes.
Asked about where the party would go from here, Hashimoto repeated earlier assertions that like-minded opposition parties must cooperate.
Over the past year, Hashimoto has made repeated overtures to unnamed members of the Democratic Party of Japan who share his views. However, Hashimoto has ruled out a merger with the full party due to the fact that many DPJ members are supported by civil servant unions. He also said that he refused to bash Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, noting that he agreed with some of Abe's economic policies.